On 15 January 2018 at 05:54, Tudor Girba <tudor(a)tudorgirba.com> wrote:
Towards the end of last year we worked on GT Connector, a new kind of
interface that allows us to exercise and test the limits (or the lack
thereof) of Bloc.
It looks like this:
You can see it in action here:
In the current implementation, the Connector allows us to navigate and
connect example methods. The focus is not on examples, but on the
connections. We used examples because the engine was already around and
offered us a nice use case. We want to extend it in the near future to
other kinds of objects.
There are a couple of things that are worth noting:
• The editor works live, and the connection points appear and disappear as
• The layout of the editor elements is based on a tree-based graph layout
that only works with constrains (no actual visible edges between the editor
• The editor works live, so adding new elements to the scene properly
rearranges the scene.
• But, perhaps, the most exciting part is the fact that the lines connect
an element from inside the text editor element with another that lives
outside of the editor element.
All these validate the architecture of Bloc of having exactly one
rendering tree. It was not an obvious goal a couple of years ago, but we
are really happy that it works.
To put it in perspective, let's compare this with the html world. Text is
text is rendered through the DOM tree. If you want graphics you might
use something like SVG which comes with its own tree. However, these are
two distinct worlds, and you cannot go from one to another, or at least
not easily. This is the case in most engines we looked at.
Thanks for this review. Its good to get a peek behind the curtain to
understand what has been learnt (wrong and right) that feeds into the
Why is this important? One thing we learn in the Smalltalk world is that
covering the same space with less concepts opens up a whole dimension
of creativity that is simply not possible outside of it.
The goal with Bloc is to enable new kinds of user interfaces. As we
late to the game of modern interfaces, even though the field was invented
in Smalltalk, our only chance to take the lead again is to rethink the
Let's look at the Connector again. In most user interfaces we have panes
on the outside, and visuals confined within the boundaries of those
panes. Interestingly, we can trace this pattern to the very first Smalltalk
interfaces. In the Connector interface we have no boundaries with text
and visualization being intertwined to form a new kind of workflow.
Talking about workflows, we now have two distinct and novel ways to
explore examples: one is Connector, and the other one is the expandable
code editor. For example, the scene from above looks like this in the
example expanding editor:
Both of these interfaces are not found in other infrastructures, and yet
they were both inexpensive to implement in Bloc.
This is fantastic. I dreamed a little of such an interface. Another good
example would be a deep expansion of "super initialize".
I guess this works easiest with "self" and "super" since there is only
method to expand.
For message chains or where messages are sent to variables and multiple
implementors need to be considered,
it might not be completely practical but still a cool demonstration to have
horizontally scrolling of multiple methods - similar to GTInspector panes
We believe this will have a deep impact for all sorts of interfaces, and
especially for the IDE. If you are interested in more details related to
the IDE, take a look at the following paper from 2015:
Please let us know what you think.
The feenk team